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Ritual on Admission of Indians to Full American Citizenship

Ritual on Admission of Indians to Full American Citizenship

Representative of Department Speaking:

The President of the United States has sent me to speak a solemn and serious word to you, a word that means more to some of you than any other that you have ever heard. He has been told that there are some among you who should no longer be controlled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but should be given their patents in fee and thus become free American citizens. It is his decision that this shall be done, and that those so honored by the people of the United States shall have the meaning of this new and great privilege pointed out by symbol and by word, so that no man or woman shall not know its meaning. The President has sent me papers naming those men and women and l shall call out their names one by one, and they will come before me.

Indian Citizenship at Fort Yates
Indian Citizenship at Fort Yates. Giving citizenship to Indians, shooting of last arrows, giving plows to farm. (Photo courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Fiske C1589)
For Men:

(Read Name.)

_________________ (white name). What was your Indian name? (Gives name.)

_________________ (Indian name). I hand you a bow and an arrow. Take this bow and shoot the arrow. (He shoots.)

_________________ (Indian name). You have shot your last arrow. That means that you are no longer to live the life of an Indian. You are from this day forward to live the life of the white man. But you may keep that arrow, it will be to you a symbol of your noble race and of the pride you feel that you come from the first of all Americans.

_________________ (white name). Take in your hand this plow. (He takes the handles of the plow.) This act means that you have chosen to live the life of the white man—and the white man lives by work. From the earth we all must get our living and the earth will not yield unless man pours upon it the sweat of his brow. Only by work do we gain a right to the land on to the enjoyment of life.

_________________ (white name). I give you a purse. This purse will always say to you that the money you gain from your labor must be wisely kept. The wise man saves his money so that when the sun does not smile and the grass does not grow, he will not starve.

I give into your hands the flag of your county. This is the only flag you have ever had or ever will have. It is the flag of freedom; the flag of free men, the flag of a hundred million free men and women of whom you are now one. That flag has a request to make of you, _________________ (white name), that you take it into your hands and repeat these words:

“For as much as the President has said that I am worthy to be a citizen of the United States, I now promise to this flag that I will give my hands, my head, and my heart to the doing of all that will make me a true American citizen.”

And now beneath this flag I place upon your breast the emblem of your citizenship. Wear this badge of honor always; and may the eagle that is on it never see you do aught of which the flag will not be proud.

(The audience rises and shouts: “_________________(white name) is an American citizen.”)

For Women:

_________________ (white name). Take in your hand this work bag and purse. (She takes the work bag and purse.)

This means that you have chosen the life of the white woman—and the white woman loves her home. The family and the home are the foundation of our civilization. Upon the character and industry of the mother and homemaker largely depends the future of our Nation. The purse will always say to you that the money you gain from your labor must be wisely kept. The wise woman saves her money, so that when the sun does not smile and the grass does not grow, she and her children will not starve.

I give into your hands the flag of your country. This is the only flag you have ever had or ever will have. It is the flag of freedom, the flag of free men, a hundred million free men and women of whom you are now one. That flag has a request to make of you, _________________ (white name), that you take it into your hands and repeat these words:

“For as much as the President has said that I am worthy to be a citizen of the United States, I now promise to this flag that I will give my hands, my head, and my heart to the doing of all that will make me a true American citizen.”

And now beneath this flag I place upon your breast the emblem of your citizenship. Wear this badge of honor always, and may the eagle that is on it never see you do aught of which the flag will not be proud.

(The audience rises and shouts: “_________________(white name) is an American citizen.”)